When using cast iron for cooking it can be difficult to gauge how hot a cast-iron Dutch oven, pot, pan, or skillet can become. Sure we can use tools to measure the heat of the contents of a cast-iron pot to cook food to perfection, but we cannot measure the heat of the cast-iron itself.
So how hot can a Dutch oven get before it’s dangerous? Cast iron should remain stable up to 1500°F, the iron’s structure changes as it gets hotter with a melting point of 2200°F. In terms of seasoned cast-iron cookware, its temperature can reach up to 700° Fahrenheit. While enameled cast-iron cookware can reach a maximum temperature of 400-450°F or 200-230°C.
Now that we know what types of temperatures cast iron and enamel can withstand let’s take a look at cast-iron itself in greater length, it is probably worth noting that the modern Dutch oven can be used on all heat sources.
That might feel like a useless piece of information to some but establishing clarity on that can be a little daunting, when there are so many heat sources available in 21st-century cooking.
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What Heat Sources Can Be Used for Dutch Oven Cooking?
While most Dutch oven manufacturers have put considerable thought into this – and have the boxes ticked – the most common heat sources for Dutch oven cooking include –
- gas stoves
- solid electric stoves
- radiant cooking
- induction cooking
- ceramic glass
- open fire
Fire or hot coals were the initial sources of heat for Dutch oven cooking, before enameled cast-iron.
In the context of the 21st century, gas, oil, coal, and wood are all suitable sources for Dutch oven cooking too. Based on that alone, we can safely conclude that you could conceivably cook with a Dutch oven at exceedingly high temperatures.
The jury is out on whether that (cooking at very high temperatures) would be advisable or not for somebody trying to protect their Dutch oven in both the short and long term. One fear that will come to mind for most Dutch oven users is the prospect of the cookware becoming sticky.
As we have already established in previous blog posts on this website, excessive heat is often the source of the problems for those among you who encounter Dutch ovens that stick.
You can read more about sticky Dutch ovens and how to prevent sticking in my article here
So, while you are at liberty to throw caution to the wind when cooking with a Dutch oven, it is advised that you only ever cook at medium to low temperatures when using a Dutch oven. A key consideration here is that the Dutch oven retains heat so well.
All this really means though, is that cooking at a certain temperature will protect your Dutch oven – which you no doubt spent a considerable amount of money purchasing. Does that mean cooking at exceedingly high temperatures is dangerous? Not yet.
Try to Never Cook Dry With a Dutch Oven
If you are going to cook with your Dutch oven at any heat level, it is ill-advised to do that cooking dry. That is to say, you should always try to ensure that there is some form of liquid, oil, or fat source covering the entire surface of your Dutch oven base, especially when preheating your Dutch oven.
That would naturally be particularly important when cooking at high heat levels. Dutch ovens with black enamel would be the exceptions that make the rule in this regard.
If and when you do decide to cook dry with your Dutch oven, make sure you never leave it unattended while cooking.
Related read Is enamel cast iron safe?
Medium and Low Heat Produce the Best Results
People who purchase and use Dutch ovens are normally pretty specific about their cooking requirements. They want the food they cook in a Dutch oven to come out a certain way.
Most of those cooking expectations will only ever be met if and when you decide to cook at low or medium temperatures.
A defining characteristic of a Dutch oven is that it promotes slow cooking. That also normally ensures that all the nutrients in your food are locked in while cooking.
Your best meals will certainly come from slow cooking and the same principle would actually apply even when you are frying and sauteing food on cast iron.
Dutch Ovens – When to Cook at High Heats
You are only ever likely to cook at high heat with a Dutch oven when you are boiling food. That would ordinarily apply to when you are cooking something like pasta or vegetables.
Not only is this the most likely time for you to cook at high heat, but it is also probably the only time you should cook at high heat with your Dutch oven.
There is a tendency for people to preheat their Dutch ovens, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that either. There are perfectly good reasons to preheat your Dutch oven when a recipe requires you to do so. However, you should not do this at very high temperatures.
Again, it is the Dutch oven that will likely suffer more than you if you do preheat it at high temperatures. We aren’t sure we can call that dangerous yet. Just a major inconvenience because it will most likely have an adverse impact on your cooking.
For one, the food you cook with the Dutch oven will likely start sticking as a result. When considering what temperatures to cook at something that should never be lost on people is that Dutch ovens retain heat very well.
Excessive heat is almost always detrimental to your Dutch oven cooking.
The Downside of High Heat Cooking on Cast Iron
Cooking at high heat breaks down the seasoning protecting the seasoned iron. Be sure to keep your Dutch oven seasoned if you cook at high temperatures regularly.
Dutch Oven Use in Conventional Ovens
Conventional oven use is a perfectly fine heat source, it is just a little more complicated, and requires more care.
While people are likely to do most of their Dutch oven cooking on a stovetop – or even on open flames – the actual kitchen oven is something that will need to be taken into consideration at some point.
It is certainly when you will need to start thinking about the temperatures you use for the Dutch oven a little more attentively.
It is probably a good idea to be a little more specific on the numbers too – and once you are clear on them, stick to those numbers. Limit your Dutch oven experimentation here.
Most manufacturers will advise that you never heat your oven to more than 260 degrees celsius.
That would equate to 500 degrees Fahrenheit or if you are using a gas setting, never go above 6 (European Standards) on those settings. Those are all your maximum temperatures for Dutch ovens when used in conventional ovens.
You should also be aware of the handles or lid lifts such as wood on Dutch ovens as they cannot withstand the high heats they may be exposed to when cooking with this method.
Most Dutch ovens and their lids will have cast iron handles or loops. Stainless steel knobs are also okay if they are on an oven or its lid as they will be able to withstand higher temperatures.
Can you put a Dutch oven in a hot oven? Manufacturers advise that the best way to heat up and cast iron is to heat both the Dutch oven and conventional oven up together.
Handling Dutch Ovens
I have been long-winded in my response to the original question but this is where the element of danger does very much come into play. It has more to do with the handling of the Dutch oven than anything else though.
Cast iron handles and/or stainless steel knobs will heat very quickly when cooking or baking in an oven. Anybody who has ever used an oven already knows this, but you need to use a dry cloth or suitable oven gloves to remove the Dutch oven when you are done cooking or baking.
Again, an important consideration to make is that the Dutch oven – whether traditional or modern – retains heat better than any other cookware on the market.
Any form of recklessness on your part here can result in the sustaining of serious burns and potentially worse than that, depending on the circumstances in your household.
The same principle should actually apply when you are using a Dutch oven on the stovetop. Hold with your hands at your own peril.
When you open the lid to the Dutch oven, it is also a time when you should pay attention to potential danger.
Remember that a Dutch oven retains a lot of heat. When considering that, you should also bear in mind just how much damage steam can do. Never stand directly above the Dutch oven when opening the lid.
Final Thoughts – How Hot Can a Dutch Oven Get Before It’s Dangerous
Safety should always be at the forefront when cooking with or handling any form of metal which has been heated and cast iron is not different.
So use the following tips and you and your Dutch oven will survive cooking your favorite dishes at their required temperatures.
- Ensure you follow the manufacturer’s instructions for your particular Dutch oven
- Avoid dry heating – it is almost never required
- Be liberal with your liquid of choice when preheating
- Do not leave your cooking pot unattended
- Do not put cold items into a hot Dutch oven
- Do not immerse a hot Dutch oven in cool or cold water
- You will never know how hot the actual oven is due to its phenomenal heat retention properties
- Be prepared with boards or Trivetts to place hot ovens on
- Aways remember the pot is hot all over including handles and lid lifts – have appropriate mitts for use
Frequently Asked Questions
How Hot Can Enameled Cast Iron Get
Manufacturers advise that Dutch ovens can withstand temperatures of 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
How Hot Can Le Creuset Get?
Le Creuset’s classic range of enameled cast iron with black phenolic lid knobs is heat-resistant to 390°F / 190°C. Le Creuset’s range of enameled cast iron with metal knobs is heat-resistant to 500°F / 260°C.
Is Staub Dutch Oven Oven Safe?
Staub cast iron enamel with its metal knob is oven and broiler safe up to 500°F.
How to Use a Dutch Oven in a Conventional Oven
Learn how to prepare food this way by checking out my article all about Dutch-oven cooking in a conventional oven here.
Preheating an Enamel Dutch Oven
The best way to preheat an enamel Dutch oven is to cover the bottom of the oven with your chosen oil. Place the oven on your cooktop before turning the heat on low. You will find that once the oil is warm low to medium heat will be all you require to start the cooking process.
Can You Put a Cold Dutch Oven in the Oven
You should not put a cold enamel Dutch oven in an already heated oven. Due to the thermal shock, the Dutch oven could crack. What we need to remember is that the enamel that covers Dutch ovens is essentially glass and should be treated with delicacy.
You should put the Dutch oven in an unheated Dutch oven and allow them to heat up together. This process allows the thermal processes in the iron to heat up.
Preheating Dutch Oven for Bread
The idea of pre-heating a Dutch oven to cook bread is because when placing the dough inside a preheated Dutch oven the dough will rise more with the steam that is generated inside.
This goes against all advice from manufacturers as well as the understanding of the damage that can occur due to thermal shock. So mainstream advice would be not to preheat an enamel cast-iron Dutch oven before placing the dough inside for cooking.
But the same cannot be said for preheating a seasoned cast-iron Dutch oven before placing bread dough inside for cooking.
If you want to make bread – you need to read my article here which covers making bread easily in a cast-iron Dutch oven.
As always happy Dutch oven cooking…
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